IC-814 anniv: Bhopal couple recall Kandahar horror

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Bhopal, Dec 24 (UNI) Death seemed standing at close quarters but the Bhattacharya couple, who were among 155 hostages on board IC-814, were feeling that their release should not be at the cost of freeing terrorist Maulana Masood Azhar.

Recalling the nightmare when the Indian Airlines plane was hijacked after taking off from Kathmandu on December 24, 1999 and eventually taken to Afghanistan's Kandahar, province Bhopal-resident Indian Forest Service officer A K Bhattacharya and his wife Suchita told UNI here today that after undergoing the bitter experience in which they were numbed with the fear of approaching death, he came to the conclusion -- uncertainty is worse than death.

''Despite these sickening moments, my heart says that terrorists shall not be freed and my wife also agreed,'' asserted Mr Bhattacharya, adding that even other hostages also shared the same view that terrorists, which posed a threat to the nation, should not be freed at the cost of lives their.

He said later investigative agencies proved that Azhar was the mastermind in several terrorism-linked incidents in different parts of our country. Even fresh reports disclosed that he was also involved in all the bomb blast incidents at various cities of Uttar Pradesh, including Lucknow and Sankat Mochan temple at Varanasi.

Emphasising the painful memories of that week which always made him tremble, Mr Bhattacharya said that mostly they had to sit by putting their heads on their knees and talking among the fellow passengers was strictly banned but still they managed to share few words.

''Through media I know that Azahar was a dreaded terrorist, who poisoned the psyche of simple folks and forced them to pick up the gun,'' he stated, adding that he also wrote a book on that sequence of events.

During that incident when Mr Bhattacharya's daughter Joita stated that though her parents were among the hostages still she considered that the liberation of passengers at the cost of terrorists would be appropriate.

The then External affairs Jaswant Singh reached Afghanistan's capital Kabul with terrorists Azhar Masood, Umar Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmed Jargar and handed over them to Taliban. Later, the hostages were taken back to Delhi on December 31, 1999.


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